The Washington Nationals, as we have seen in the past, usually go into the winter like many other teams with a checklist of needs they feel they need to address. They don’t always address them as we saw last offseason when they all but ignored their need for an established left handed reliever, but that was thankfully not the case this offseason. GM Mike Rizzo felt like the Nationals needed a veteran starting pitcher, a left handed reliever, and a fourth outfielder, preferably left handed.
Thus, enter Doug Fister in a trade with the Detroit Tigers, Jerry Blevins in what seems like the 4,000th deal with the Oakland Athletics, and Nate McLouth on a two-year deal with an option for a third year. Now, usually when the Nationals make the moves they need to make there aren’t many more around the corner as Rizzo usually stops, save for a smaller scale trade or a minor league signing. However, could this winter be different? Are the Nationals really done or are there some more moves up their sleeve?
Well, Washington could use a backup catcher, for starters. Currently, the Nationals are going into Spring Training with Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon as backups to Wilson Ramos, though it would be hard for me to believe that the Nationals will go into 2014 with them as the backups. Solano is .146/.180/.188 in only 50 at bats this season, and Leon had only one at bat in 2013 with nothing to show for it. It would shock me if Rizzo, who has been all kinds of proactive this winter after 86 wins and an all around disappointment in 2013, was finished.
I think this past season was a major wake up call for everyone on the Nationals. Sometimes a team can get complacent or simply take their success for granted. What 2013 did was throw a bucket of cold water all over Washington, and maybe even more so on Rizzo, who is always going to have supreme confidence in his guys and his team like any other former scout. Rizzo does not want to see 2013 repeat itself and addressing all needs is the best way to combat that. So, as far as catchers go, there could be a reunion between Washington and Kurt Suzuki who is rumored to a relatively strong market.
Suzuki was traded back to the Athletics last season and has seen his production drop significantly in recent years, making it pretty safe to say the conversion to backup catcher has already been made for Suzuki. He’s probably looking for at least a two-year deal, so I’m not too sure the Nationals want to lock up their backup position that long. Also, with Solano and Leon playing every day in the minors, it may be more productive for the Nationals to bring one of them out of camp, and if it doesn’t work out look for a backup then.
The Nationals could still add another starter and could bring in more bullpen help as well as a backup infielder to use as minor league depth in the event Danny Espinosa doesn’t work out. They could also do none of these, as we have seen how quickly and quietly Washington makes moves. The Nationals could still have another move up their sleeve, but they also may not.